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Random thoughts, rants, raves and photo opportunities

2009 - Coughin Up A Lung Receives Belated Press

It was brought to my attention this morning by a coworker that my archived geocache Halloween 2008 BONUS: Coughin Up A Lung was written about in one of the local newspapers.  The Burnsville and Eagan edition of Thisweek newspaper contained an article about the incident and how it is leading to a new geocaching policy in Dakota County.  What the article lacked was the history and details of what really happened during the incident.

You can read the article online for yourself by clicking here.

You can read more about incident by clicking here.  You can also read my response to the county contemplating the issuance of a citation by clicking here.  You can read the Sheriff's Department Newsletter here.

2009 - Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event

Last year I hosted Minnesota's First Ever Canoe-in Geocaching Event.  It was such a success that this year, on Saturday August 22nd, 2009, I hosted Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event.  The venue was the same this year and was held on the beautiful Cannon River.  We dropped our boats in at the Cannon Falls landing and paddled to the landing at Miesville Ravine Park Reserve.  Paddling geocachers had fifteen geocaches, eight of which were new, to find along the 6.5 mile journey.  Festivities following the run down the river included a picnic and social hour.  A new addition to the event this year was the sweet corn feed, of which everyone seemed to enjoy.

I do not have a precise head count of event attendees but there were 43 RSVPs, 38 geocachers logged the event electronically, 54 individuals signed the paper log, and the shuttle bus was standing room only.  The event was attended by some geocaching legends, a handful of fresh, new, geocachers, and every level in between.  It was difficult to get a boat count this year but I do have confirmation that the Cannon Falls Canoe Rental shop ran out of canoes and had to place inexperienced paddlers in kayaks.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

Highslide JS
Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Gathering at the top of the river.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Who's riding with who?
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
My paddling companions, my little Laura and friend Ryan.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A geocache stop along the river.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Landing near geocache Cotton Picking Goodness.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Paddling down the lazy river.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
Relaxing after the long paddle.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
A view of the picnic.
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Minnesota's 2nd Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event
The attendance log.

2009 - South Pass Lighthouse, Venice, LA

Click the thumbnail for a larger viewDuring my Great River Road adventure, it is safe to say that the highlight of the trip was the adventure that took us to the South Pass Lighthouse.  Located some 35 miles south of Venice, LA, the southern most point in Louisiana, it is only accessible by boat on the Mississippi River.  It is a mere half mile from the Gulf of Mexico. 

While researching the area prior to our trip, I noticed a 5 star difficulty and 5 star terrain rated geocache sitting out there in the river delta not yet having been found called The Guiding Light  (GC1V92T).  I thought about that geocache for days half heartedly thinking to myself, it would be a blast to find this cache and possibly be the first to find it as well.  In order to get to the lighthouse, chartering a boat would be necessary.  After researching charter services available in the area, I initially concluded that it would not be economically feasible to pull off this adventure.  But after many hours of contemplative thought and discussion, we would chalked this up as being a "once in a lifetime event" and booked the charter with Captain Dan of MLC Charters

During the 36 mile boat ride down river, Captain Dan provided a great history of the area.  He pointed out several historical locations and was explaining the geology and hydrological behavior of the river.  When we approached the lighthouse, it was clear the storms over the years had removed nearly all evidence of a previous civilization I had seen in pictures.  Including the dock and piers for we couldn't land the boat on shore.  I had to wade through the last 15' of gator infested waters.  I managed to make it to the lighthouse without being eaten alive and after a short search, I had found my 3000th geocache, and was first to find to boot.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2009 - Fort Defiance, Cairo, IL

As I progressed south on my Great River Road tour out of St. Louis, MO towards Arkansas, the itinerary took us briefly into Kentucky.  It was well over 50 miles out of the way but it was required for the Great River Road Challenge I was working on.

Out of Cairo, IL on route to Kentucky, we visited Fort Defiance State Park, which is located literally at the southern most point of Illinois, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  Apparently this area was known at Camp Defiance during the American Civil War but is more well known as the point where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent five days studying celestial navigation.  Using navigational tools of their time (no GPS), they successfully obtained the first latitude and longitude data that they used during their expedition.

We crossed the rivers and entered Wickliffe, KY.  Just out of Wickliffe, we stumbled upon Fort Jefferson quite literally by accident.  Our goal was to find the closest geocache located just inside Kentucky, which brought us to this historical overlook.  Fort Jefferson was built during the American Revolutionary War to protect the inner United States against the British.  It was abandoned after one year after having been taken by force by the Chickasaw.  Eighty years later, it later served as a Union Army post during the American Civil War.  Very little evidence of the fort remains today but in 2000, the Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross was completed to memorialize "lost loved ones."

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2009 - Memphis, TN

Click the thumbnail for a larger viewWe completed our second day of the Great River Road tour in Memphis, TN.  There's no better way to wind up an evening in Memphis than to find some grub and beverages down on Beale Street.  We headed to the downtown area knowing nothing significant about the area other than its musical history.  We left Memphis disappointed though as we all wanted to visit Graceland, but the timing didn't work.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2009 - Coughin Up A Lung Finally Returns Home

The Dakota County Sheriff's Department released my geocache Halloween 2008 BONUS: Coughin Up A Lung from custody today.  It was a full sized toe pincher coffin and was confiscated from its hidey hole back on May 15th after a group of teenagers stumbled upon it in Lebanon Hills Regional Park.  After speaking on the phone with Sgt. McGinn Sunday evening, I was told that no citations would be issued and that I could arrange to pickup the container.

While picking up the container at the Law Enforcement Center in Hastings, Sgt. McGinn was very pleasant and even helped me load it into my truck.  My beautiful wife covertly took a picture or two of us loading up the coffin.  It was suggested by some in a local geocaching circle that it would be a great idea to arrive in Hastings to pick up the coffin driving a hearse.  While I thought it was a funny, I do not think it would have been wise even if I could get my hands on one for a day.

2009 - Is Geocaching An Accepted Activity In Dakota County Parks?

There has been quite a stir that was caused when a NON-geocacher stumbled upon my geocache in Lebanon Hills Park on Sunday, May 17th.  While on the phone discussing it with Sgt. Brian McGinn, of the Dakota County Sheriff's Department, he made it clear that he was dismayed and that he is pursuing charges (in the form of a citation) because of the incident.  It was at that point when I realized that this has nothing to do with geocaching and everything to do with saving face.  Saving face in the sense that law enforcement feels that someone should have to pay, either monetarily or symbolically, for their complete lack of due diligence before mobilizing expensive crime scene resources.

But while I feel that geocaching isn't the real problem, that is what is being used as the driving force to try and punish me.  Punishing me for something that was NOT criminal activity, but for something that was a family activity.  Sgt. McGinn told me that he has submitted this case to the County Attorney's office and listed off a number of possible charges.  I've itemized each of those charges below and then point out the inconsistencies and contradictions as it pertains to this case.

  • I violated the Dakota County geocaching policy and did not acquire a permit to place my geocache.


During the first phone call from Sgt. McGinn, Sunday evening, May 17th, 2009, he declared that I violated the Dakota County Parks geocaching policy and that I did not have a permit to place a geocache in the park.  Geocaching is an accepted activity in Dakota County parks.  Dakota County does not have an official geocaching policy and a permit system certainly does not exist for geocaching.

On a second phone call the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27th, 2009, Sgt. McGinn mentioned that other municipalities have policies and that should have been my guidance for placing the geocache.  Obviously, some systems do have policies but the majority of municipalities do NOT. As a Dakota County resident, you cannot reasonably assume I would be responsible for knowing the details about all of the policies in other systems unless I were to visit those systems and place a geocache in said system.  As of today, I have not hidden a geocache within a municipal system that has a geocaching policy, with the exception of State Forests, and in that case, I have followed the policy to the tee.

  • Personal property left in the park.


Sgt. McGinn says that he could cite me for leaving personal property within the park.  Since geocaching is an accepted activity in the parks and because my geocache was officially listed on geocaching.com, one can reasonably assume that if the other 52 geocaches in Lebanon Hills are exempt from that ordinance that my geocache is exempt as well.  Not only are there 52 geocaches placed in Lebanon Hills, there are a number of puzzle geocaches NOT listed as being in the park but really are in the park.  And that does not even mention the geocaches residing in the remaining county park properties such as Spring Lake, Miesville, Byllesby, etc.

Sgt. McGinn goes on to say that my Halloween themed geocache probably would have been accepted had it been there only during the Halloween season.  While that may be his opinion, it still contradicts the published park policy.  It also would have violated the geocaching.com policy on temporary geocache placement.

  • Disturbance of Natural Resources (digging and disturbing vegetation).


Sgt. McGinn tried to convince me that the geocache was covered with soil and if it was, where did that soil come from?  What he is probably basing that on is that while he was investigating me, he found my website where I've published pictures of the geocache.  What he saw was a thumbnail picture of the geocache covered with leaves, but the leaves have no definition in the photograph when it is sized down to a thumbnail.  If he had actually clicked on the photograph to view it in its actual size, he would have clearly seen the (dead) leaves on the geocache and not soil.  You can also go directly to where the geocache was placed in the park and find NO changes to the earth or the surrounding vegetation.  The very photograph on the Sheriff's last newsletter proves that the geocache was not covered with soil and that it was certainly not buried.

  • Hiking (straying off trail).


I am not certain how this can be applied when geocaching is an accepted activity in the park.  Of the 52 geocaches listed in the park, all of which I've found, not one resides directly on a trail.  There is electronic evidence on geocaching.com that park officials have even visited geocaches in the park and logged them as found, which in essence, an acceptance that it happens.  In addition, orienteering is also a commonly accepted activity in the park and the very nature of orienteering is to cross country off trail.  The park system sponsors orienteering events and in fact, it was an orienteer that stumbled upon my geocache when he was off course.

  • Littering.


Using the same definition as leaving personal property, if geocaching is sanctioned by the county park system, and the geocache is officially listed and approved on geocaching.com (which has its own set of guidelines and requirements), this cannot be considered littering.  In addition, Dakota County Parks has worked directly with the MN Geocaching Association in the past to sponsor Cache In Trash Out (CITO) events within our parks. There are two known events to have taken place in the past in addition to the immeasurable amount of trash that the average geocacher carries out on their own accord.  It is not uncommon for a geocacher to clean an entire area of glass, cans, blow in debris, etc. while finding or hiding a geocache.

  • Amusement Contraptions


Sgt. McGinn mentioned that if the other ordinances didn't apply, he could apply this ordinance to a possible citation. The county park usage guidelines list amusement contraptions as the following:

"Amusement Contraption means any contrivance, device, gadget, machine, or structure designed to test the skill or strength of the user or to provide the user with any sort of ride, lift, swing, or fall experience including, but not limited to, ball throwing contest devices, electronic videos, animal ride devices, dunk tanks, ball and hammer devices, trampoline devices and the like."

I can assure you that my geocache is not a contraption by that definition.  It was constructed of natural and untreated wood (cedar).  It doesn't require a skill to use, it doesn't make any noise, and it certainly does not contain any self moving parts.

Dakota County Park Policy

2030 Dakota County Park System Plan

Front Row volume 4 week 49, the Sheriff's Department Newsletter

It would be ideal if the county took this moment as an opportunity to improve the park system for all involved rather than using this issue as a means to prove a point.  It might be especially important for them to have some common sense and understanding at a time when the County Attorney's office really needs to mend public opinion of itself.  I've offered myself and the services of the Minnesota Geocaching Association as resources in the future of geocaching within Dakota County Parks.  I am hoping that it falls on receptive ears.

I want to thank you all for the support you've provided.  I am certain that I've probably over dramatized this issue.  Let's just hope that common sense prevails.

2009 - Coughin Up A Lung Has Seen Its Demise

My geocache Halloween 2008: Coughin Up A Lung (GC1H32A) has certainly had its share of attention.  Besides the rave reviews it gets from those geocachers that find the cache, it's been written about in other BLOGs and it recently won the vote for Cache of the Month for February 2009 by the MNGCA.  But the most recent attention that my cache has been getting hasn't been so positive.

Last Sunday, four teenagers were strolling off the trail in Lebanon Hills Regional Park and happened upon the final location to the cache.  The kids thought the toe-pincher coffin, created out of fence pickets, looked real enough that caused them to freaked out.  Three of the teenagers bolted and the remaining kid contacted the Eagan Police who then got the Dakota County Sheriff's Department involved.  If the law enforcement officer that contacted me was telling the truth, there was even a crime scene for a short moment.  By the time the dust had cleared on Sunday, my cache had been disabled and the county is now in possession of a very elaborate and expensive geocache container.

I am not sure where the end of the story will lead as I am just now in the process of making contact to get the container back.  I do not know if there are bad feelings on the side of law enforcement or the county parks system.  What I do know is that the Sheriff's Department seems to have enough sense of humor about it to write about it as the front page item in their latest newsletter.

You can read the Sheriff's Department Newsletter here

For the record, the Dakota County Park System does NOT have a geocaching policy and they do not require a permit as falsely indicated by the county officer I talked to.  As of the time of this posting, there are 52 geocaches listed as being located within the boundaries of Lebanon Hills Regional Park.  In addition to that, there are at least 4 to 5 other puzzle geocaches with final resting locations within the park.  I have not counted the geocaches listed in other Dakota county parks but one thing is for certain, the other parks are not as densely populated with caches as Lebanon Hills.

While I understand that my cache may have caused some kids anguish, I hope the park system realizes the harmless nature of geocaching and takes into consideration the value of the sport and the amount of visitors it adds to the park.

Click here to read more about the history and making of this geocache

2009 - Wildwood Bike Trail, Woodville, WI

The Wildwood Trail is bike trail which originates in Woodville, WI and runs about 8.5 miles to Spring Valley, WI.  The trail is managed by St. Croix County and is well groomed, composed primarily of packed gravel, and is very pleasant to ride.  On the north end, there is a short stretch of trail that is grass.  As the trail crosses into Pierce County to the south, you will be riding on what is essentially of collection of private property parcels that follow the old railroad right-of-way.  This section of the trail is not managed and is quite brutal to peddle.

The Wildwood Trail is also considered one of the very few geocaching power trails that exist in the country.  There literally is a geocache hidden every 600 to 1000 feet, with approximately 46 geocaches hidden on the entire trail length (see photograph #1 below).

On Saturday April 18th, 2009, a small group of avid geocachers joined me for a bike and geocaching trip along the Wildwood.  Our group included my geocaching mother, Norvina, TecGeoJim, MinnesotaBrad and myself.  We managed to score all 46 geocaches along the trail and the finds seemed to be fairly balanced between the group.  After completing the bike trail, TecGeoJim headed home and the rest of us continued caching for another couple of hours.  My numbers for the day totaled 58 finds which is my new daily record.  The two most memorable caches for me were not on the power trail, but two caches on the north end of Eau Galle Reservoir (GCV8EQ and GCTPZV).

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
A view of the geocaches along the Wildwood Trail.
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
Norvina sporting her brand new "girly bike".
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
MinnesotaBrad, TecGeoJim and Bflentje.
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
A view of the trail looking south.
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
Norvina got her finger caught in the mouse trap.
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
TecGeoJim signing us into the log.
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Geocaching The Wildwood Bike Trail
Norvina & MinnesotaBrad taking a break.
 

2009 - Nearly Naked (GC1GQZ5)

Nearly Naked (GC1GQZ5) by Seldon

During March of 2009, I completed 102 geocaches.  This is by far my favorite cache find for the month.  It is a traditional cache located in Rice County, just northwest of Faribault, MN.  The cache is rated 2 stars for difficulty and 5 stars terrain.  There is no real way to grab this cache without some kind of equipment.  You'll either need a lineman climbing apparatus or a ladder.  I chose the ladder to retrieve this cache since I own several of them.  Grabbing the cache turned out to be pretty easy but the weather was a tremendous factor with winds gusting up to 30MPH (see the angle at which the ladder is placed).  I promised fellow geocacher (and my mother) Norvina that she could retrieve the cache..  she had something to prove and she did well.  We signed the log and I got the duty of putting the cache back into place.

Unsuspecting cachers coming into this cache blind won't take too long to figure out that the cache is 20' up, even with the decoy hiding at the base of the stump.  I have since nominated this cache for the MN Geocaching Association Cache of the Month for April 2009.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..